Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Brand Spankin' New Year

No matter how much you muck up your year, every January 1 at one second past 12:00 a.m., you get a brand new shiny year, fresh out of the box, unused, unworn, untarnished. It is perfect and it is yours. 

When you buy a new car, the moment you drive it off the lot, it loses a portion of it's value. The first time you discover a rogue shopping cart resting against your bumper when you exit a store after an afternoon of shopping, your heart sinks as you realize your new car is not new anymore. It's dinged, it's lost value, and it needs to be washed. You wonder why you ever bought a brand new car when every nick and mark hurts your heart so. Maybe next time you'll just buy used. Meanwhile, you still have several years to drive this one in its never-as-good-as-new state.

You walk out of the hair salon with a new cut and feel great. Your stylist has again created a masterpiece of hair and you feel like you should be rushed directly to the nearest fashion runway because you look so good. So. damn. good. After a busy afternoon of going everywhere and seeing everyone possible -- to get the most mileage out of your new 'do -- you settle into bed and drift off to sleep. You deserve some rest, beautiful new hairdo. You really worked it today. Then the morning comes,

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Breaking the Seal

One year ago, I made a vow to attend a retreat hosted by Squam Art Workshops (SAW). This I promised after completing an online class via SAW where I learned random weaving and was completely swept up in the teaching style and encouragement. Me. Weaving. Randomly. Don't judge me.

The night of December 4, 2013, I felt a bit lighthearted and tricked out a canning jar to act as both a reminder and a savings vehicle for me to attend one of the SAW retreats in person. It would take a bit of doing, since these are held in the woods of central New Hampshire and I live, well, no where near there. But I could work toward it.

The first night after making the jar when I filled it with all the coin and currency
I had in my car and in my wallet that night
. (Hmm, I've painted the table since then.)
I sent the picture to the founder of Squam, thinking she might find it amusing. At the time, I did not know if anything would

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Giving Up for Christmas

I had to let go. The feeling I held onto for years was getting me nowhere. It kept me mired in a place that wanted me stagnant. It held my feet to the spot where no real peace could grow. I held onto the feeling so tightly for so long that I no longer knew when I first felt it. I held onto it so long that I no longer knew why it is important to me. 

Yesterday, I sat in a movie theater watching Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon and based on a book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. If you have not yet heard of it, the story is that of a woman (Strayed) who embarked on an 1100-mile trek along the Pacific Coast Trail from California to Oregon whilst trying to work through some tough emotional issues regarding love, loss, and identity. I read the book a few weeks ago, in preparation to see the movie when it released, but nothing could have prepared me for the feeling that overwhelmed me in the darkness of the theater as I watched Strayed's story unfold on the screen.

For years I have held animosity toward a person for things I once could have sworn she did intentionally to me. I could have sworn that once, but there in the glow of a movie screen, I wasn't so sure anymore. On nearly every meeting between the two of us, I analyzed yet another reason I felt slighted and noted one more infraction she had committed in my eyes. While

Friday, December 12, 2014

Holiday Gifts for YOU

Who doesn't like presents? While giving these gifts across cyberspace is absent the thrill of pretty paper and ribbons followed by ripping open the packaging to reveal the goodness inside, I believe these gifts can give you so much more over the long term. What I have for you below is a list of glorious websites that will introduce you to some inspiring people across the world. I have discovered many of them by word of mouth (or randomly clicking internet links), and since I have both words and a mouth, I made this list of World Wide Goodness just for you.

These are in no particular order, and each is worthy of a click of the mouse. So, Dear Reader, here is your present and I hope you enjoy. Each one has brought me happiness, and I hope they will do the same for you. In a season filled with Christmas cookies and holiday meals, these will feed your soul. Enjoy!

Squam Art Workshops -- What a collection of deliciousness here, ranging from an entertaining blog to online classes to in-person retreats. There is magic here. I'm talking about wrap-you-up-in-starlight-and-set-you-atop-a-unicorn magic.

Jennifer Belthoff -- The Love Notes Postcard Project is free and quite the delight. Check out her online journaling courses, too. Such goodness!

The Conscious Caterpillar -- Xan Holyoak uses her delightful writing skills to give the reader a peak into her life in South Australia, where kids, husband, a big heart, and conscious living combine.

Danielle LaPorte -- She is a force of nature who leaves you wondering how you ever got along without her. Whether through her Desire Map book, Truthbombs, or her motivating daily planner, she'll set you on a path to your goals and you'll like it.

Stephanie Levy -- Her Creative Courage course offering guides dreamers of all levels toward those very dreams. Whether professional artist or one who just wants to break out of their shell, this site has several offerings to inspire and encourage.

Brave Girls Club -- Two Idaho-based sisters bring sunshine and comfort to their part of the world and yours with uplifting words, cool crafty projects, and daily reminders of the love of community.

Artsyville (Aimee Dolich) -- I discovered Aimee's work by randomly searching Etsy, and I immediately was drawn to her colorful designs. Several purchases later, the wall of my study is covered with her work, and I often give her designs as gifts, which are always a hit with recipients.

Harriet Goodall -- This Australian artist brings the ancient craft of weaving to a new level here, turning cast-offs of the natural world into unique works of art. Best of all, she teaches it, too! (I was lucky enough to participate in her online weaving class last year and was totally hooked!)

Jean Ellen Whatley -- On my list of Top 10 Books, hers is firmly in that mix. In Off the Leash, she escaped the daily drudgery of job and home to set off on an epic road trip with her dog, where she discovered much more than expected. On her blog, she continues to bring her candid wit and insightful observations to many.

Nicola Taylor -- What happens when you combine a talented photographer and the moors of North Yorkshire England? Pure magic. This self-portrait photographer has a unique manner of bringing her vision to life (and has a great story of how she became a photographer), producing hauntingly beautiful art as a result.

Flora Bowley -- I cannot say her name without an elongated pronunciation, "Flooooooooorrraaaaa". Colorful abstract paintings bring color and shape together in a new way, and best of all, she teaches her technique through classes and books.

Kerry Lemon -- Who says you have to do what everyone else is doing? This illustrator proves through her story and practice that artists can do what they love and make a living.

Momastery -- Glennon Doyle Melton's hilarious and heartfelt blog about life with her family is a must read for moms and non-moms (like me) alike, and this piece that she wrote about kitchen gratitude had me laughing until I hurt.

Elizabeth Gilbert -- Author of Eat Pray Love, Liz is wonderfully accessible to her fans via her Facebook page, where she frequently writes posts that encourage and uplift her readers. Though internationally known, she takes the time to personally interact with her readers on her page.

Hannah Stonehouse Hudson -- If you were anywhere near a computer last year, you surely saw the touching photo of a man floating in the waters of Lake Superior with his aged dog, Schoep. Hannah's lens caught that poignant moment of love, sending her into the international spotlight for her talent. She remains incredibly grounded as she practices her photographic arts from her home base on the shores of Lake Superior. A year would not be complete without her wall calendar of lovely pet photos donning my wall.

Susannah Conway -- Break free from what binds you by soaking in all the loveliness of her website. Whether you subscribe to free emails or enroll in an e-course, the benefits will most assuredly be memorable.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Few Introverted Weeks

Weeks like these last ones make me long for one of two things -- either the long-passed days when people did not talk about religion, politics, or controversy outside their very close circle of friends, or the days when I would play in my backyard sandbox, completely oblivious to the happenings in the outside world. Neither seems to be an option now.

Issues in my country these last weeks have come to the surface which have opened a conversation, albeit a controversial one, and one which many people feel very passionately. Both sides of the issue voice their views, sometimes loudly, sometimes hurtfully, sometimes saddened, sometimes disheartened. Like so many discussions held in recent years, those speaking only wish to be heard while those listening only wish to reply. We end up speaking at each other rather than to each other, and the voices just become a wave of drowning noise. In these living room or office debates, the introvert slips away in the ever-present wish to avoid controversy. 

If we amplify everything, we hear nothing. -- Jon Stewart

This introvert turns to the page, the only place I feel I can finish a thought without interruption. I realize I do not hold the same views as many people I see every day. That is okay. If everyone were the same, the world would be boring. However, I do not believe any debate should include disrespect, anger, hatred, or pain. I do not know how to resolve these issues, but I know anger never solved anything, and I know the only person I can control is myself.

I found comfort in the words of Elizabeth Duvivier this week when she wrote what I had been trying to express but couldn't. Her post Why Each of Us reminds me that change starts inside. Change starts by releasing anger and cultivating a kind spirit. That change starts within each of us. Within me.

This may cause a change in some of my relationships since my introverted self often became quiet during prickly conversations with friends, and that quietness may have been interpreted as tacit agreement. I cannot do it anymore. Carrying the unsaid words has become too burdensome. Though I chose not to be disrespectful to one with an opposing view, I also expect the same in return. So, if you see me walk away, you will know why. I would rather walk away from the conversation and walk in peace, than stay and be surrounded by disrespect.

An interesting observation from conversations of the last several weeks on this very subject of our national turmoil: while dozens of people voiced their opinions to me in varying degrees of passion on the subject, not one person asked my opinion. Not one. That speaks volumes.

I have tried to stay away from anything remotely controversial with this weblog, but this week, my heart was just too heavy with these thoughts. I had to release them. Though I do not expect everyone to agree with me -- far from it -- we can have a conversation. I promise to respect your views, allow you to finish a thought, and listen to understand. I also expect the same. There will be no room in our conversation for anything else.

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